Reports Point to Smallest Monthly Job Loss

Dec 2, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

BLS logoReports out today may be foreshadowing optimistic news Friday when the U.S. Department of Labor issues its monthly jobs numbers.

Economists are expecting that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will report that between 114,000 and 125,000 jobs were lost in November. If the BLS numbers come anywhere close to the lower end, it will be the smallest job loss since the recession began in December 2007.

The reports, including a Federal Reserve assessment saying the economy in most parts of the country “improved modestly,” come a day in advance of a White House jobs summit Thursday. A broad group of top CEOs, small business owners, academics, and economists will huddle with President Obama to discuss how to reverse the job losses and start growing work.

While the losses have been diminishing, they are seemingly unrelenting. This morning the ADP National Employment Report said 169,000 private sector jobs were lost in November. It’s the eighth consecutive month of declines in lost jobs and the lowest loss since July 2008.

ADP Employment reportADP also revised its estimate of October’s job loss, which the company had initially pegged at 203,000. Wednesday’s report lowered the number to 195,000.

Still a Reuters survey predicted the ADP number would be closer to 155,000. Other surveys placed the number as low as 150,000. In any case, the variance had little effect on the stock market, which also took in stride a relatively upbeat report from the Federal Reserve.

The Fed’s so-called Beige Book reported improvements in eight of the central bank’s 12 districts. Consumer spending increased and home sales, particularly at the low end of the market, had picked up, leading the Fed to declare that the economy was improving “modestly.”

Job growth, however, remains a challenge, the report said, warning  “further layoffs, sluggish hiring, and high levels of unemployment” will continue at least for the near term.

Another report, this one from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, confirmed the Fed’s expectation of continuing layoffs, but at a pace that is the lowest in almost two years. The global outplacement firm said employers announced 50,349 planned job cuts in November, which is the fewest number of monthly job cuts since December 2007. It’s the fourth consecutive month that layoff announcements have dropped.

The report said that job cuts have averaged 69,252 since July 1, less than half the 149,446 monthly cuts from January through June.

Meanwhile, The Conference Board reported that online job listings jumped in November by 106,500 listings. The last increase in job listings was in August when 169,300 new jobs were posted online. Typically, job listings slow down in November and December, so the increase suggests a greater optimism on the part of employers.

Even so, Gad Levenson, senior economist with The Conference Board, called the jobs improvement “sluggish. We have yet to see a significant increase in employers’ demand for labor, and, until we see job openings pick up, it will be hard to bring down the unemployment rate.”

Consumer Confidence Nov
The Conference Board

Job loss, the Conference Board said, is a key reason why the Consumer Confidence Index is stuck in the doldrums. The Index increased slightly in November to 49.5 from a revised 48.7 in October.

“The moderate improvement in the short-term outlook was the result of a decrease in the percent of consumers expecting business and labor market conditions to worsen, as opposed to an increase in the percent of consumers expecting conditions to improve, ” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Income expectations remain very pessimistic and consumers are entering the holiday season in a very frugal mood.”

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.